Skip to comments.Men hungrier for revenge than women, brain scan study reveals
Posted on 01/19/2006 2:19:55 PM PST by neverdem
Men appear to get greater satisfaction than women from witnessing painful retribution, according to a brain scanner study published today.
This evidence of male schadenfreude, or pleasure at seeing revenge enacted, suggests men may have evolved to be less empathetic than women so they can more easily mete out punishments to help keep society cohesive, speculate the team at University College London.
In the team's study, published today in the journal Nature, 32 volunteers watched actors who had previously cheated them get electric shocks as the UCL researchers monitored what was happening in their brains.
Dr Tania Singer, who led the study, said: "During breaks in the tests you could tell from the body language that both the male and female volunteers did not like the actors who had cheated them. They tried to stay away from them as much as possible."
In women, the same pain regions of their brains were activated when they saw one of the actors get a shock as when they got a shock themselves; it was as if they actually felt the other person's pain.
But in men, these pain areas were not activated and instead, the pleasure centres of their brains lit up, meaning that they got pleasure, or at least satisfaction, from seeing the other person get a shock. "They expressed more desire for revenge and seemed to feel satisfaction when unfair people were given what they perceived as deserved physical punishment," said Dr Singer.
However, men were not wholly unsympathetic. If the person receiving the shock had not previously cheated them, men behaved like women and showed empathetic activity in the pain areas of their brains.
Nor were women indiscriminately sympathetic. The empathy-related activity in their brains was higher for people who had not cheated them.
"These results suggest that fairness in social situations shapes the nature of the emotional link we have to other people," explained Dr Singer. "We empathise with others if they act fairly. But in contrast, selfish and unfair behaviour compromises this empathetic link."
Rather than feeling empathy for people who cheat us, we desire revenge and generally feel satisfaction when cheats are punished. "This has probably been crucial in the evolution of society as the majority of people in a group are motivated to punish those who cheat on the rest.
"This means that people tend to protect each other from being exploited by society's free-loaders, and evolution has probably seeded this sense of justice and moral duty into our brains," said Dr Singer.
The results could indicate a predominant role for men in maintaining justice and issuing punishment in human society, but Dr Singer said that more research was needed to back up this finding before any conclusions were reached.
"We will need to confirm these gender differences in larger studies because it is possible that the experimental design favoured men as there was a physical rather than psychological or financial threat involved."
The above is the title that the NY Times gave to their version of this story.
They don't know my ex.
That's because men are wired for vengeance.
Men may want revenge more but women hold on to grudges far far far far far far far....did I say far?......longer, and then they get their revenge. And it comes out of the blue with no reference to anything remotely current....
Behavior the liberals have been doing their very best to condition/indoctrinate out of the populace for decades!
Not the best of titles ... can be taken different ways.
¡Sí, tengo muy hombre!
Nah, it just means most of 'em never grow up! :)
They test her?
The subjects were probably overwhelmingly Christian and Jew. A rerun should be done using Moslems.
Great minds think alike.
I can vouch for that. And she's got it coming.
Assorted posts on the same topic. Not that there is anything wrong with than that. Mostly not identical.
I wonder if they even bothered to go outside the university to recruit subjects? Lot of starry-eyed young female idealists there.
No doubt the "researchers" used "intuition" to render patterns of light into wordy intentions.
And on another day, members the same "team" cheer at films like "Thelma and Louise."
I just finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha... sheesh, the women in that book spent YEARS plotting revenge for petty slights!
Sounds to me like emotions have been left untouched by evolution.
(Denny Crane: "I Don't Want To Socialize With A Pinko Liberal Democrat Commie. Say What You Like About Republicans. We Stick To Our Convictions. Even When We Know We're Dead Wrong.")
Several are the befuddled that have no idea that it was I that sidetracked their personal goals. One still has no idea why the IRS is still so interested in his income from the early nineties.
Don't get on my bad side, there is no light or warmth there.
"Behavior the liberals have been doing their very best to condition/indoctrinate out of the populace for decades!"
Yes, but someday we'll get our revenge. :))) I don't think the brainwashing is working on those of Scots/Irish blood.
That's for sure.
How is this even news, anyway?
In other breaking news, a shocking study lays bare men's dirty little secret.
They really like sex.
There must be something wrong with this study-I'm certain I'm not the only woman who has ever played so many dirty tricks and head games on her ex husband that he thought he was going nuts and went wacko in a marriage counselor's office...
Isn't it funny that men are most likely to be the ones seeking justice for wrong done, but also the most likely to be the predator committing the wrong.
As a female, I think the title is very misleading from what the article is stating. My thought is that the women didn't like seeing the other person being given physical pain. I don't think it is safe to assume that because of this women don't want revenge. This study was about punishment using physical pain which for most women is far different from any other types of punishment (such as humiliation, ostracizing, etc.).
...anybody ask Vince Foster?
That's cuz the book was written by a guy :)
We men have always enjoyed a dish best served cold.
Repeat of a repeat.
I disagree - they have been enforcing the idea that their "constituents" have been cheated immensely - by life, the right, the capitalists, the corporations, the meat eaters, the military, etc. The better to burn down SUV dealers, ski resorts, encourage mutiny, and hang the "industrialists"
This was a bad experiment, because it assumes that "pain" and "pleasure" centers can be located, and that they are in the same place for men and women. It would be better to have a behaviorist experiment. The subject gets a mild shock, and is told X did it. At various times, the subject is given an opportunity to safely retaliate against X with a similar shock.
I agree. There were too many variables that weren't addressed or taken into account--at least by what was disclosed in the article.
Strange, considering that the study in question seemed to indicate that men rather enjoy seeing *bad* people punished.
I guess in Liberal Land, that counts for "revenge." Among the sane, however, I think the word is "justice."
I disagree. Between the functional M.R.I., which was used in this study and detects deoxyhemoglobin, i.e. deoxygenated hemoglobin, in parts of the brain undergoing greater metabolism, and PET scans, there's a much greater appreciation of the brain's anatomy and physiology these days.
The study is part of a growing body of research that is attempting to better understand behavior and emotions by observing simultaneous physiological changes in the brain, a feat now attainable through imaging.
"Imaging is still in its early days but we are transitioning from a descriptive to a more mechanistic type of study," said Dr. Klaas Enno Stephan, a co-author of the paper.
Dr. Singer's team was simply trying to see if the study subjects' degree of empathy correlated with how much they liked or disliked the person being punished. They had not set out to look into sex differences.
To cultivate personal likes and dislikes in their 32 volunteers, they asked them to play an elaborate money strategy game, where both members of a pair would profit if both behaved cooperatively. The ranks of volunteers were infiltrated by actors told to play selfishly.
Volunteers came quickly to "very much like" the partners who were cooperative, while disliking those who hoarded rewards, Dr. Stephan said.
Effectively conditioned to like and dislike their game-playing partners, the 32 subjects were placed in scanners and asked to watch the various partners receive electrical shocks.
On scans, both men and women seemed to feel the pain of partners they liked. But the real surprise came during scans when the subjects viewed the partners they disliked being shocked. "When women saw the shock, they still had an empathetic response, even though it was reduced," Dr. Stephan said. "The men had none at all."
Furthermore, researchers found that the brain's pleasure centers lit up in males when just punishment was meted out.
The researchers cautioned that it was not clear if men and women are born with divergent responses to revenge or if their social experiences generate the responses.
Dr. Singer said larger studies were needed to see if differing responses would be seen in cases involving revenge that did not involve pain. Still, she added, "This investigation would seem to indicate there is a predominant role for men in maintaining justice and issuing punishment."
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
I agree as well. This doesn't look like a controlled study with any experimental design or analysis of variance. I just don't believe any kind of article like this without any data to back it up. Also 32 is not a very big sample size.
It's big enough to show fairly significant sex differences for a preliminary study, or I doubt politically correct Nature would have published it. Since the study was done at University College London, a country of socialized medicine and a hurting health system, I'd be surprised if they could afford a sample that was much larger. When I had a simple CT of the abdomen and pelvis, I was charged US$ 1070.
Chloe (24) rocks!
The researcher probably used Bill Murray's methods as demonstrated in "Ghostbusters."
A study with only 32 subjects is statistically worthless.
Are you a statistician? I'm not.
If you have a normal distribution in a population, that may seem to be a tiny sample, but if there is a biphasic distribution according to gender, the results seem intriguing at the least.
When the "fair" players were shocked, both female and male volunteers showed increased activity in the pain-related centres of the pain - the fronto-insular and anterior cingulate cortices.
When the "unfair" actor received a shock, the women taking part in the experiment showed a similar empathy with them.
In contrast, the male volunteers showed no increased activity in the empathy-related pain areas.
They did, however, show a surge of activity in the reward centre of the brain - the nucleus accumbens.
P.S. When I worked in Quality Control for Wella AG, a medium sized, hair care products company two decades ago, filling weights were usually checked with two dozen samples for each lot whose usual total daily production numbered about 3,000 - 5,000 units.
The reference to the actual article is Nature (DOI: 101038/nature04271). I'm going to the library to see if I can locate the abstract and an associated P value.
Actually I have a masters degree in math/statistics. 32 subjects/ presumably 16 male, 16 females in a paired t-test is a VERY small sample. Like I said, earlier, details of the study should have been revealed before making general statements like this author did. Even though the results were to be published in a peer reviewed journal such as Nature, how do we know this author is reporting the results correctly?
fyi, sample sizes for maintaining Quality Control or SPC (Statistical Process Control) can be different than a required sample size for hypothesis testing especially when inferences such "men are hungrier for revenge" are involved. In reality, in QC, cost is often a factor in determining sample size. In hypothesis testing, statisitical significance is often the determinant.
Which is why probably more women don't like war and getting the needed results through war. Many don't get the necessity of war.
A related issue to this article IMO.
Well thirty years ago I taught stat and studied it fairly extensively. No study would be considered valid with such a small sample. There is simply too much chance that you would not have a random selection with such a small sample.
The test for filing levels is not the same kind of thing.
I am not saying the conclusion is wrong just that it is not based upon a sufficiently large sample.
They did, however, show a surge of activity in the reward centre of the brain - the nucleus accumbens.
Isn't this like getting 16 women with a negative response out of 16 trials, and getting 16 men with a positive response out of 16 trials. By simple chance wouldn't the odds of that be 1 out of 231? Here's the abstract:
The neural processes underlying empathy are a subject of intense interest within the social neurosciences1, 2, 3. However, very little is known about how brain empathic responses are modulated by the affective link between individuals. We show here that empathic responses are modulated by learned preferences, a result consistent with economic models of social preferences4, 5, 6, 7. We engaged male and female volunteers in an economic game, in which two confederates played fairly or unfairly, and then measured brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging while these same volunteers observed the confederates receiving pain. Both sexes exhibited empathy-related activation in pain-related brain areas (fronto-insular and anterior cingulate cortices) towards fair players. However, these empathy-related responses were significantly reduced in males when observing an unfair person receiving pain. This effect was accompanied by increased activation in reward-related areas, correlated with an expressed desire for revenge. We conclude that in men (at least) empathic responses are shaped by valuation of other people's social behaviour, such that they empathize with fair opponents while favouring the physical punishment of unfair opponents, a finding that echoes recent evidence for altruistic punishment.